Framed potato print from Bugs portfolio, published by the Byam Shaw School of Art in London in 2000
Mark Wallinger’s print, King Edward and the Colorado Beetle, refers to crop destruction. The Colorado beetle of the title is a small, yellow American beetle whose larva is exceedingly destructive to the potato. Wallinger’s potato print uses as its medium the potential victim of the insect. The image of the beetle is repeated five times on the print, with the strongest print at the centre surrounded by increasingly weaker prints. The arrangement of the beetles suggests that these five represent only a tiny section of an endlessly repeating pattern, hinting at the overwhelmingly profuse aspect of the insect world.
Wallinger’s work is one of a portfolio of ten prints collectively entitled Bugs. The portfolio was published by the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. Produced as a fundraiser, the proceeds from the portfolio sales were dedicated to providing bursaries to support Byam Shaw students from overseas, particularly those from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and India. The works in the portfolio use various printmaking processes and share an insect theme which has been interpreted in diverse ways. The theme was set by the school principal, Alister Warman. Originally intended to refer specifically to insects found in London, it was conceived of as a sequel to another print portfolio published by the school in 1994, Nine London Birds. The decorative treatment deployed by a number of the artists involved contrasts with a subject matter commonly regarded as repugnant.